Think Differently About Success

At the end of every year, no matter how good or bad the year, my teams set crazy goals. Every year, I also do the same for my personal life. And every year we, my teams and I, “fail’ to achieve those lofty goals.

I remember speaking to some accountants and analysts about yet another year of not hitting targets.
Experts: “David, you missed your targets again. What are you going to do to hit your targets in the coming year?”
Me: “We’re going to approach it the same way we did last year. We’re going to continue to set ambitious targets and we’re going to work our ass off to achieve them.”
Experts: “But you didn’t accomplish last year’s target. Either your forecasting was wrong or your execution was wrong.”
Me: “We aimed for 500% last year. In some areas we grew by 120% and in some we grew by over 300%. Is my job to be a prophet and forecast the future? Or is my job to make sure we are creating more value and growing faster than the competition? Besides, which of your other portfolio companies, who hit their forecasts, grew as much as us?”

We aimed for 50,000 members when we were 8,000. We ended that year with 14,800, so we aimed for 100,000 this year. Now we’re over 50,000. We went from 8,000 members to 50,000, in less than two years. BUT we missed our targets.

We aimed for $5,000,000 in Annual Run Rate when we were at $500,000, and ended with over $1,000,000. Now, after a crazy Covid-19 year, we’re nearly back at Pre-Covid levels, and even better, a few months away from profitability. This makes us one of the few startups in the Philippines that’s achieving both growth and sustainability at the same time. But, again, based on forecasts, we missed our targets.

I aimed to have my first painting exhibit in over 10 years last 2020. Covid made that impossible, but I finished 3 paintings and countless studies, more art than I have produced in the last 5 years combined. But I missed my target.

I aimed to restart an old New Year habit of running 42km to welcome the year, but I got Covid, so that didn’t happen. Instead, I became my fittest ever focusing on calisthenics and workouts I can do in our small apartment. But I missed my target.

I failed to read the book target I set. But I enjoyed reading and rereading meaningful books. But I missed my target.

I failed to achieve my perfectly programmed financial goals for 2020, gutted by the economic impact of Covid. My personal revenue goals were obliterated. My savings, after no pay for nearly a year, were at the lowest in a long time. I had to close bank accounts and renegotiate terms. I had to prioritize expenses and cut-off certain luxuries. But I refound the joy of contentment and the ease of less, two things I learned with nothing as a single man. But I missed my financial targets.

Over and over in my life, I’ve set seemingly big goals and attempted seemingly crazy things, and over and over I’m met with a roadblock, adversity, and even failure. But I look at my life and the progress of my teams, and I look at the experts, those whose role it is to inspect the rightness of others, and their achievements are nowhere near ours.

How do my teams and I, the constant failures, march on, keep growing, and get stronger?

Well, there’s no magic to it. It’s simply that: march on, keep growing and get stronger. And there’s no better way to trigger this than forcing yourself into situations that force you to march further, grow greater, and get stronger than you ever have before. It is better to choose an incredibly big goal, work your utmost to achieve it, fail, yet grow exponentially than it is to succeed at a goal that is “realistic”.

Rethink what a successful year for you and your team looks like. Don’t succeed at achieving goals that allow competition to create more value. Don’t succeed at predicting a mediocre future when you can fail yet still create massive value. Don’t succeed in feeling like a success yet making very little gains and for very few people (Like only yourself!). Instead, challenge yourself, stretch yourself, force yourself. Put yourself in situations that ask more than you think you’re capable of giving. Go out and attempt really great, really meaningful, really difficult but valuable things. Even if you fail at achieving your impossible dreams, you will achieve what really matters: a great soul.

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